Angela Merkel gets her own comic book

July 2, 2009

By Jacob Comenetz

Less than three months before Germany’s election, Chancellor Angela Merkel has become the unlikely subject of a new comic book.

Journalist Miriam Hollstein teamed up with political cartoonist Heiko Sakurai to tell the story, with pictures and speech bubbles, of  “How Angie became our chancellor”, as the 64-page book is subtitled.

The authors say it is the first comic book devoted to the German chancellor in a country that lacks a tradition of comics and has a reputation for seriousness.

“Germans are ready for this kind of book,” said artist Sakurai, pointing out that the book is not only about entertainment. “Our comic is serious too.”

It tells the story of Merkel’s rapid rise to the top position in German politics despite what critics say is her lack of charisma. Along the way, she outfoxes numerous male opponents who attempt to stunt her progress.

A key turning point portrayed in the book came in January 2002 when Merkel made a secret deal with her conservative rival Edmund Stoiber, then the premier of the southern state of Bavaria who became the conservative candidate for chancellor that year. She promised to support his candidacy in exchange for his supporting her bid to become the head of the party’s parliamentary group.

“It was a daredevil move,” said Hollstein, adding it allowed her to get the upper hand in her party after Stoiber lost the federal election.

A scene from Merkel’s childhood reveals much about her cautious leadership style. She stands on a high diving board as two boys look on. “She’s been there for 45 minutes,” says one.

“Coward, she’ll never jump,” says the other as they turn to walk away.

At that moment, she jumps. And the caption reads, “Even back then one shouldn’t have underestimated her.” 

Sakurai, who has drawn Merkel hundreds of times for German newspapers, said while many aspects of her appearance had changed over time, he had always drawn her eyes in the same way. “This dull look, with the lids half shut, means we can’t look into her soul,” he said. “What does this woman actually want? Where is she going? We don’t really know.”

In the final scene, as her formal rivals Stoiber and former Social Democrat Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder drink themselves into a stupor while watching the returns come in on election night 2009, Merkel gets the final word.

“Cheers! Here’s to the old bird losing!” says Schroeder. Merkel then appears: “You boys only belong to the past, I, however, have gone down in HISTORY!”

But the book leaves open who will win in September’s election.

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